Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I wanted, more than anything else, to express my warmest and heartfelt thanks to Ant and Dec for coming yet again to this amazing event, when you think they could be doing all sorts of other useful things like practicing their lines for the next show! It made me think, nearly sixteen years they have been coming here and each year their jokes get better and better, and their matching suiting gets smarter and smarter. Generally, they add an enormous amount of tone and dignity to the occasion and I am enormously grateful to them.
I have interesting memories of this place Ladies and Gentlemen, because I think it was always here that the Royal Variety performance took place and one or two other Prince's Trust evenings trying to raise a lot of money. On one of those evenings, I was sitting in that box, what Dame Edna Everage describes as the 'ashtray', and to my absolute horror, halfway through this performance one of the performers produced a ladder and leaned it up against the 'ashtray' and proceeded to climb up inside the box and to make some very unsuitable jokes at me. Whereupon, I was very very tempted just to give the ladder a tiny push!
Anyway, Ladies and Gentlemen, it has been a wonderful occasion and I found it deeply moving to hear so many of the young people's stories. But, after fourty one years it really is, as you can imagine, I hope, so continually rewarding to hear about the way in which The Trust has helped to turn people's lives around. Of course, it can't be done without the army of wonderful supporters and staff. All those remarkable characters who have the ability to help all those who need courage and literally help people to build their self-confidence and self-esteem. It doesn’t happen at once, it takes a lot of effort and application and dedication. So, I owe a huge debt to all those wonderful volunteers who very often have been with The Prince's Trust family for twenty five, thirty years or whatever.
And, as you imagine last year, being the fortieth anniversary, I was extremely proud of what The Trust has achieved and all those people who have given so much. Particularly, all those wonderful celebrity ambassadors, people like Philip Schofield, who has been coming for twenty three years, finally caught me out as I was wiping my nose. And so many others, the young ambassadors, you can't imagine how proud I am of them, as they have been through such unbelievable difficulties in their lives and when they come back and help it's remarkable to see the difference they can make to help prise people out of the darker corners of life and say 'come on, actually, if you go on this programme you will find it makes all the difference'. A lot of people don't believe it, but once they give it a go they often find that it's so much better than they dared even imagine.
The other thing I am very proud of too, is the result of all this incredibly hard work on the part of Martina and her team and all those people who help us raise the money, to whom I am inordinately grateful. I think it's now something like 870,000 people we have helped; I keep thinking it must be way over a million by now! I'm always told that despite the fact we are helping something like 55 nearly 60 thousand people a year, a lot of people are going around on programmes so you can't count them twice!
But, as a result of all that we get a 78 per cent positive result from all the effort put in to helping young people transform their lives. So many of them go on to do all sorts of other things, whether it's new training or education.
As you can imagine I am so proud of all those people who started their own business nearly 90,000 now. All those people who have made such success, and sold their business for huge amounts of money and they come back and help The Trust again with big donations and by becoming ambassadors. And that is exactly what I wanted to achieve fourty one years ago; a virtuous circle, if we could manage it. I think, overall, we have and what warmed my heart more than anything today was to hear someone say it was a family. Because that is what I hope, in many ways, it has become.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, finally I wanted to thank more than anything else T.K. Maxx and Homesense – for being such wonderful sponsors and our partner for this year’s Celebrate Success. And, the work they do is hugely valued, not just at this event, but throughout the year.
And, the other sponsors who have made such a huge difference and have helped today in particular are Boeing, Dell EMC, Delta Airlines, HSBC, Natwest, who have been a great support for years, and of course Mappin & Webb, and I was thrilled to find out that Elizabeth Galton, Creative Director at Mappin & Webb, had been started off by one of our original old travel bursaries by The Trust twenty years ago. Again, you can see how the virtuous circle works.
Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for all your wonderful support and again my warmest possible congratulations to all those young people whose lives have been turned around, and who I hope will help turn other people's lives around when I am too old and decrepit to do anything!